Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Next time you sit inside a CAB...

I recently attended the CAB Exchange, a small conference about customer advisory boards (CABs). I had some appreciation of what CABs are about, but had not dived deep into the subject before, so if you have been running a CAB for years, I may be stating the obvious here.

Most people talk about customer reference programs and CABs in the same sentence, which is understandable because both try to leverage satisfied customers for the benefit of the company. While the two concepts are linked, they work in opposite directions. Customer references are outward-looking activities in the sense that we take what the customer says and try to blast it out to the universe for everyone to hear.

CABs are very different because they are inward-looking. The goal of a CAB is not to get quotes from customers, tell them the roadmap or give them a C-level product pitch, but to listen to them. After a successful CAB, you should have a truckload of tasks and ideas to implement in marketing, product development, customer support and business development. The hard thing is to implement these ideas across the enterprise and show results to keep your CAB members interested.

CABs in a nutshell: Shhhhhhhhh, listen.